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Run, balls, run!

USA Luge gears up for annual fundraiser during World Cup

December 7, 2018
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - There is still time to adopt lacrosse balls for USA Luge's fourth annual Running of the Balls benefit race when the Viessmann Luge World Cup comes to town next week.

The luge team is competing in World Cup races at Calgary, Alberta, this weekend before coming to Lake Placid's Mount Van Hoevenberg track on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 15-16, and USA Luge officials at the Church Street headquarters are busy organizing their biggest fundraiser of the season - the Running of the Balls.

"It is certainly unique," said Gordy Sheer, USA Luge director of marketing and sponsorships, and 1998 Olympic silver medalist. "I know there are other people who run different races like this, whether it be ducks or rolling balls down the street. But certainly only in Lake Placid would you see an event like this which sees a thousand lacrosse balls rolling down a luge track."

Article Photos

Spectators watch lacrosse balls make their way to the finish line at Curve 19 of the combined sliding track at Mount Van Hoevenberg in March 2016 during the inaugural Running of the Balls fundraiser for USA Luge.
(News photo — Andy Flynn)

More than 1,000 lacrosse balls make about a 1-mile run from near the top of the Olympic Sports Complex sliding track to the finish line at Curve 19, one curve shy of the track's uphill finish line.

The event will be held after the men's singles and doubles races on Saturday, around 2:35 p.m., "assuming as everything goes as planned," Sheer said. The women's and sprint events will take place on Sunday.

The Running of the Balls is similar to the Lake Placid Rotary Club's Dam Duck Race on the Chubb River. People adopt rubber ducks that race over the Mill Pond dam and into the river, and they are collected a short distance downstream. With Running of the Balls, people adopt lacrosse balls in the chance one of their balls will cross the finish line first. Balls have been donated by Summit Lacrosse, based in the Lake Placid/Saranac Lake region. People don't actually keep the balls they adopt, as they are used at local lacrosse tournaments.

At the inaugural event in March 2016, 960 lacrosse balls negotiated the Mount Van Hoevenberg course, raising more than $12,000 for USA Luge in the process. During the second event, the organization raised more than $17,000 with 1,280 lacrosse balls. Last year, USA Luge raised more than $10,000 with about 1,000 balls.

"It goes to support the athletes and programs of USA Luge," Sheer said. "People sometimes forget that we have to recruit, train, develop and support athletes from day one in this sport. There's no collegiate or little league for luge, so it's incumbent upon us to assume the development of the entire pipeline."

Fans may enter as many balls as they'd like. The cost is $10 per ball or three balls for $25. Participants can purchase balls online via the USA Luge website at

Cash and prizes from USA Luge sponsors will be offered for the top 10 balls, as well as the last place ball.

Prizes will be awarded as follows: first place, $500 and a Yetti backpack, a Timex watch, a USA Luge T-shirt, beer mug and pin and a Travelers Choice hard case; second place, $300, a Yetti backpack, a Timex watch and a USA Luge beer mug; third place, $200, a Yetti backpack and a Timex watch; fourth place, $150; fifth place, $100; sixth place, a Quest Nutrition gift box and a White Castle certificate; seventh place, a Timex Watch; eighth place, a Quest Nutrition gift box and a White Castle certificate; ninth place, a White Castle certificate; 10th place, a Timex watch; and last place, $100 and a USA Luge T-shirt.

As an added bonus, there will be a race within the race this year, according to Sheer. In partnership with Bucket List Events, people can enter to win a trip to the 48th FIL World Championships in Winterberg, Germany, held Jan. 25-27, 2019.

Media sponsors include the Lake Placid News, 93.3 WSLP-FM and Adirondack 105. Event sponsors are Margarita Sears, Hotel North Woods, Bear Essentials and the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort.

On-site fans will be treated to coverage on large screens thanks to the International Luge Federation, Carr-Hughes Productions and the state Olympic Regional Development Authority.

There are two good places to watch at the track: at the Curve 19 finish line and at the Chicane, two small rolling curves - 15 and 16 - and a long straightaway before Curve 17.

"In the Chicane, the track goes uphill a little bit, so the balls slow down and you get the accordion effect sometimes, so you get a traffic jam and you have to usher them through," Sheer said, adding that young athletes and track employees help push through balls stuck in the Chicane traffic jam with hockey sticks and brooms.

Fans can watch a live stream of the event on the Olympic Channel or at, with the exact start time to be determined on race day.



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